Monthly Archives: March 2013

April 1, is Parkinson’s Awareness Day

April 1, is PARKINSON’S AWARENESS DAY, and I have decided to mark this day on my  blog as a tribute to a dear friend who suffers from Parkinson’s. Through our friendship, I have been made aware of the difficulties of living with this illness. Not that she complains, but I have learned to recognize some symptoms and know that her daily life is not easy. In spite of this, she always looks at the half-full glass, something that many of us can learn from her. I know that I have.

Fight Parkinsons For my friend and for all the other people in the world who suffer from Parkinson’s, I turn to researchers and beg them to hurry up and find the promised cure.

In memory of my late son who suffered from schizophrenia, I turn to the relevant researchers to move faster with their most important work as I want schizophrenia and other mental illnesses to be right near the top of the list. I know that no politician ever won votes for advocating more awareness for mental illnesses so maybe researchers will do the job.

schiz brainThe diagram on the left is of a healthy brain, while that on the right, shows what schziphrenia has done to this brain.

My late husband suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease and in his memory, I turn to  all the Alzheimer researchers to work harder and much faster to find a way to alleviate the terrible symptoms because … every 71 seconds someone in the world contracts Alzheimer’s Disease, which is rather frightening.

imagesCACSRVDH

                                       When things go wrong as they sometimes will,

                                       When the road that you’re trudging seems like a hill.

                                       When funds are low and your debts are high

                                        And you want to smile, but can only sigh,

                                        When cares are pressing down a bit, DON’T QUIT.

                                     

                                        Success is failure turned inside out

                                       There’s a silver tint on the clouds of doubt.

                                       You can never tell how close you are                                   

                                       It may be near yet seems so far.

                                      So … stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit

                                      ‘Cause when things go wrong you MUST NOT QUIT.

 When speaking to people suffering from one of the three illnesses mentioned above, please remember the following:-

  • A CARELESS WORD MAY KINDLE STRIFE.         
  • A CRUEL WORD MAY WRECK A LIFE. 
  • A TIMELY WORD MAY LEVEL STRESS.
  • A LOVING WORD MAY HEAL AND BLESS.
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Why did you decide to study psychiatry?

Taken from an interview with Prakash Masand, M.D.

“My mentor exposed me to the incredible disability and consequence of psychiatric illness and the impact that medications and psychotherapy have on a patient’s quality of life.”

“Does the stigma affect your work?”

“I see stigma reflected in the perceptions of other physicians toward psychiatrists. They don’t regard me, for example,  as a real physician. I have actually been asked by colleagues why I am wasting my talent to go into psychiatry because they feel that it is not a desirable specialty. This includes therapists and psychologists who often tell their patients that they are not crazy and do not need to consult with a psychiatrist. This attitude stigmatizes psychiatric illnesses even further. Fighting against the myth is extremely important even today.”

“How do you think that the stigma affects patients?”

“Patients and their parents tend to minimize psychiatric illnesses and put off seeking treatment for as long as they can do so … due to the stigma. Parents are not hesitant to discuss the diagnosis of heart disease or cancer with their friends and colleagues but are extremely ashamed to talk about the fact that they have a bipolar disorder, suffer from a depression or schizophrenia. Stigma against patients is reflected in employment agencies, insurance coverage and even friendships.”

“Long standing ignorance and misunderstanding on mankind’s part re psychiatric illnesses and its treatment is one basic reason for the stigma. Another is the ongoing media reportage due to their sensationalized descriptions of incidents, especially violent ones involving patients suffering from a psychiatric illness. This perpetuates the perception amongst the general public that all psychiatric patients are dangerous. But, that is simply not the case. In addition, the media rarely emphasize how the deinstitutionalization of psychiatric patients and the reduction in available resources led to homelessness or incarceration for many. Rather than address the tougher societal issues, the media focuses on the sensational.”

Can a hidden illness be as difficult to deal with as a psychiatric illness?

A Hidden Illness

Brenda once told me; “I suffer from lupus and people say; ‘Oh, it’s only lupus. It’s not a big deal,’  but it’s  not easy to live with. People assume that I’m healthy and happy because they can’t see it. But that’s because of the mask I wear when amongst people.”

“Underneath the mask, there is another layer; the one that cries and hurts when I go through difficult periods. When one lives with a chronic illness, some days are worse than others. I know people with other invisible illnesses and they suffer the way I do, too. There is no point in complaining now, is there? But I don’t feel well and lupus most definately makes me different from other people.”

Brenda once told me; “Allowing an invisible illness to show, is akin to standing naked in a crowd of well-dressed people.”

A psychiatric illness

 L said; “People call me all sorts of names when they discover that I have been in a psychiatric hospital. Even if this occurs frequently, I are still the same person I always was. The only difference is that I am ill. So, I try not to take too much notice of the name-calling, but it’s not easy to ignore.”

L continued; “During a psychotic episode, I don’t behave the same way I did previously but my doctor reminds me that this is only a temporary spell. Today’s medications do help me somewhat and I try to ignore the labels that thoughtless people attach to me.”

“People shouldn’t judge me by what I say and do when I am having a psychotic period because  I am still the same person. I may be many things to an onlooker but inside, I am still me.”

“During my treatment I came across an empathetic psychologist who told me something that I will never forget and which helped me through the worst time of my life.”You are a gift in a world needing gifts. You deserve the same opportunities as the rest of us. You deserve a miracle in a world that might no longer believe in miracles. Remember that you can care and be cared for, touch and be touched, laugh, cry, live and love. You can be alone or with others, feel scared or brave, and that’s okay too.”

If only there were more psychologists like this around, life would be easier for so many people.

‘Stigma hurts,’ she told me.

“I’ve experienced stigma and it took me a long time to move on,” she said. “There is no need to hurt people by stigmatizing them. Everyone needs to think  how they would like it if they became the stigmatized ones … stigmatized for something that is not even their fault. Do you know that if you do not contract a mental illness, it will probably happen to someone you know?” I was visiting my son in a psychiatric hospital and all this is what I was told by a university student who had been hospitalized in the middle of her studies for her Master’s Degree in medicine.

She continued; “The recovery rate for mental health problems is between 70 and 80% nowadays. Good mental health is as important as good physical health. I read somewhere that it is unjustified to discriminate against people suffering from a mental illness and it might even become illegal. The stigma arises out of misinformed attitudes, ignorance and fear. Contrary to popular belief, the overwhelming majority of us are neither violent nor dangerous.”

“Do you know that if someone is stabbed in the street, everyone assumes automatically that it’s one of us? They think that we get off lightly with a shorter jail sentence than we should. I find this so very disheartening that it makes me crawl into my shell which then makes my condition even worse. After that, I have a hard time going out in case this happens to me.”

“Do you know that people suffering from schizophrenia are far more dangerous to themselvs than to others? In addition, we are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violent crime?”

“A suicide is usually newsworthy and is a legitimate subject for reporting, however, media coverage requires sensitivity and compassion as it can potentially save lives. Evidence shows that copycat suicides can result from detailed descriptions by the media of the methods used. The most vulnerable appear to be young people and the risk seems to be greater when there is a feeling of identification, such as in the case of celebrity deaths by suicide.”

“It is important to bear in mind that the language used to report a suicide does not glamorize nor sensationalize it, nor present suicide as the solution to a problem. Suicide has been decriminalized so it is inaccurate to use the word committed . A completed suicide should NOT be described as successful nor unsuccessful if it does not result in death.”

 

Now tell me honestly, does this woman sound like the kind of psychiatric patient you read about in the press? And I want you to know that she does not stand alone. There are many doctors and other professionals who suffer from some kind of psychiatric problem or other, yet still manage to lead productive lives except for the times they have a psychiatric breakdown.

How should we speak to a person who is hallucinating ?

  • If you suspect that someone is hearing voices, it’s okay to ask if he/she is hearing voices.
  • If the individual says yes, then it’s okay to ask: “What they are saying?”
  • Remember that he/she might be hearing voices at the same time. that  you are talking so the individual needs time to work out what you are saying due to the interference of the voices, as they can be rather noisy.
  • Limit the number of questions you ask and speak slowly and clearly.
  • Reduce the number of outside stimuli like music, for example.
  • Allow the person to vent some of his/her frustrations.
  • It’s a good idea NOT to tell the individual that the voices cannot possibly be real because a person who hallucinates is most definately having this experience, which is  indeed very real to that person.
  • Patience is the operative word here.

HE IS HALLUCINATING. What its like to experience auditory hallucinations

Have you ever lived with someone who hallucinates? It is difficult to believe that what that person is telling us is really happening to him/her, because the rest of us do not hear a thing. What is an hallucination? It is a misperception or error made by one of our five senses that involves hearing things and these experiences seem very real, but, they occur without any outside stimulus being present – like a human voice for example.

Hallucinations can occur in neurological conditions like brain tumors or epilepsy, in degenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or in conditions associated with sensory deficits like visual impairment or deafness. But, hallucinations can also be symptoms of a psychiatric disorder such as schizophrenia. Auditory hallucinations, the hearing of voices, are the  most common types in serious psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia.

While my family lived with my son who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, I wish that someone had given me access to a clip like the one at the end of this blog then. Why? Because it was almost impossible for us to understand how terrible it must have been for David to hear voices all the time, not to ever have peace of mind, which stopped him from hearing everything people were saying. Because those voices interrupted real conversations that he was having, a lot of the time.

He often told us that he wished for a decent job, someone to love, and most of all, peace of mind.

Click on the link below to see a clip that gives an idea of what it’s like to experience auditory hallucinations.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vvU-Ajwbok

When I was a ‘computer dummy.’

computer (2)SERENADE 2 SENIORS

My granddaughter was five when she asked me to accompany her to kindergarten to see how well she worked on a computer. I went willingly and on arrival, she greeted her teacher and friends, and then sat down at the computer to show me how to make a birthday card. I was amazed at the speed her little fingers flew across the keyboard, and the result was impressive.

“Now it’s your turn, Grandma,” she told me, getting up to make room for me on the chair.

“Umm, no darling. Maybe I wasn’t concentrating. Show me again please, and a bit slower this time, okay?”

Once again she produced an even more beautiful card and vacated the chair for me. We repeated this drill a few more times, and shamefacedly I was forced to admit that I was unable to produce anything remotely like what she had done. This adorable five-year-old looked up at me with her sparking eyes full of surprise and asked;

“Grandma, didn’t you go to kindergarten?”